Win or lose, there’s rarely a lack of personality and honesty from Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. “Gabby” as he’s known to many, usually delivers at least two or three comments in his media availabilities that are worth a good chuckle. Sunday was no exception.
“We’re down in goalies, I might be the back-up tonight, I don’t know if that would classify as my 1,000th game if I was the back-up goalie tonight, but we’re working on something like that,” Gabby said.
Boudreau is referencing the fact that he’s running out of goaltenders. Abbotsford Canucks netminder Michael DiPietro will start in net for the Canucks against St. Louis Sunday night after Friday’s starter Spencer Martin tested positive for Covid on Saturday. University of British Columbia goaltender Rylan Toth will dress as the emergency back-up.
Regular Canucks back-up Jaroslav Halak entered protocols while the team was on it’s recent eastern US road trip while team number-one Thatcher Demko tested positive Wednesday night or Thursday not long after arriving home. Their status for Tuesday night’s home game against the Edmonton Oilers is unknown.
Boudreau will coach this milestone game without two of his assistants as Scott Walker and Kyle Gustafson have both tested positive for Covid.
Vancouver Hockey Now asked Gabby about his very first NHL game-day for the Washington Capitals back on November 23rd, 2007. He had been promoted from the Capitals AHL affiliate in Hershey Pennsylvania, just a two-hour drive from Washington’s road game that night in Philadelphia. He made the morning skate.
“I have so many memories of that day,” Boudreau said. “From the moment that I got the call at 6:30 in the morning, to forgetting how to get to the rink in Washington because my head was so fluttered with things, to walking in there, into the dressing room, and the first moment looking at the nameplates and going ‘Holy!, I’m coaching Alex Ovechkin tonight’. I was in awe, it was a crazy time.”
Boudreau went with his natural coaching instincts, he quickly changed things up from what former Capitals coach Glen Hanlon had been doing, and instilled the plan that won him a Calder Cup Championship two seasons earlier in the AHL.
“We’re not winning, so I can’t continue doing what we’re doing, so I changed everything at the first practice and went on and we had an overtime win in Philly on our first night, it was really good,” Boudreau recalled.
Nicklas Backstrom scored on Flyers goalie Marty Biron at 1:55 of overtime with an assist from Ovechkin to give Boudreau a victory in his debut.
The Gabby-led Capitals were off and running. His record that first partial season finished at 37-17, enough to earn him the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year.
Boudreau coached the following three full seasons with the Capitals and then was relieved after 22 games of the 2011-’12 campaign. The knock against him was he couldn’t get past the second round of the playoffs. Despite that, the Anaheim Ducks snatched him up immediately to replace head coach Randy Carlyle.
The Ducks played the remainder of that season and four more under Boudreau and made the Western Conference Final in 2014-’15. After being relieved of his duties at the conclusion of the following season, the Minnesota Wild then brought him aboard in the summer of 2016.
His four seasons with the Wild ended in the spring of 2020 with a 3-games-to-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL ‘playoff bubble’ Qualifying Round.
He joined the Canucks on December 6th, 2021 and coached them to a 4-0 home victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s taken a lot of winding roads but I still pinch myself about where it’s at at this stage,” Boudreau said. “I’m in awe that it’s my thousandth game and I can only thank the Aquilinis (Vancouver Canucks owners) for giving me the opportunity to do it. I didn’t know if it would ever happen again but it’s a pretty special night for my family and myself.”